“This award means a lot to us”: Caritas Malawi official on Recent National Recognition

The National Coordinator of the Catholic Development Commission (CADECOM), Mrs. Chimwemwe Sakunda receives the award from Dr. Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera, the President of Malawi NGO Regulatory Authority (NGORA). Credit: State house Malawi.

The recognition of the Catholic Development Commission in Malawi (CADECOM), previously called Caritas Malawi, as the top organization in emergency response management in the Southern African nation is significant, an official of the entity has said.

In an interview with ACI Africa, CADECOM National Coordinator, Chimwemwe Sakunda, weighed in on the Non-Governmental Organization Regulatory Authority (NGORA) award, which she received on 14 December 2023.

“This award means a lot to us,” Mrs. Sakunda said during the Tuesday, January 9 interview, and further described the prize as “no mean achievement”.

She added that members of CADECOM, the development arm of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM), “are grateful for the recognition of our contributions to alleviate the suffering of the people especially in difficult times like disasters.”

The award is a result of the exemplary response of CADECOM to Tropical Cyclone Freddy, Mrs. Sakunda said, adding that “the achievement aligns very well with our mission of serving the poor and the needy. During disasters people need support and we are there to support them.”


“As guided by the Catholic social teaching, we take the welfare of the poor at heart and ensure that their dignity and respect is maintained at all times regarding of the situations they are in,” the National Coordinator of CADECOM said.

The cyclone that first hit Malawi on 12 March 2023 affected 500,000 people, including 326 who were killed and over 183,100 people who were displaced, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). 

Malawi was reportedly the most affected by the tropical storm, which was described as the longest-lived cyclone on record. The cyclone also affected Mozambique and Madagascar.

The situation prompted CADECOM to make an emergency appeal through Caritas Internationalis (CI) to mobilize resources that helped save lives and address immediate needs of the affected communities.

Through CADECOM, ECM reportedly reached about 50,000 victims in Malawi’s districts of Blantyre, Chikwawa, Nsanje, Phalombe, Zomba, Machinga, and Mangochi, with various relief items, including food items such as maize, maize flour, soy pieces, soya nutri-blend meals for under-five children, sugar, cooking oil, salt, and beans among others.

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In the January 9 interview with ACI Africa, the National Coordinator of CADECOM acknowledged with appreciation the partnership from local churches and other partners that facilitated the humanitarian assistance. 

Mrs. Sakunda also spoke about CADECOM approaches in various interventions, highlighting “is the strength-based approach which puts the local knowledge and capabilities in front in all our undertakings including in disaster response.”

On allocating resources during emergencies to ensure effective and timely response, Mrs. Sakunda said that CADECOM partners with local government structures through district councils and various humanitarian clusters. 

“These are structures that have all the data in terms of the impacts as well as partners responding to the disaster,” she said, and added, “So, we are guided in terms of what is needed and where the needs are through this.”

On timeliness, she explained, “CADECOM is a member of these structures and is involved at all stages starting from assessments to post-monitoring distribution. So, in this way, we are aware of the needs on time and then we quickly move in using the prepositioned funding we have.”


The CADECOM official told ACI Africa that the entity of the Catholic Bishops in Malawi also partners with other Church structures on the ground and mobilizes local resources to support the affected people as soon as the disaster occurs.

Asked about the challenges encountered while executing their duties, Mrs. Sakunda said, “The ultimate goal in disaster management is to save lives and our major problem is timely resources to respond to emergencies.”

She also spoke about engaging “partners for prepositioned funding” and thanked Trócaire and Caritas Australia for the collaboration in addressing the challenges of the people of God in Malawi.

Silas Mwale Isenjia is a Kenyan journalist with a great zeal and interest for Catholic Church related communication. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communication from Moi University in Kenya. Silas has vast experience in the Media production industry. He currently works as a Journalist for ACI Africa.